Friday, February 23, 2018
Golf

Tiger Woods rallies to win Memorial, ties Jack Nicklaus in PGA Tour wins

DUBLIN, Ohio — Tiger Woods was at his best Sunday at the Memorial. He hit nearly every shot just the way he wanted, worked the gallery into a frenzy with one last charge over the final hour and left everyone buzzing, especially Jack Nicklaus, with a shot they will talk about for years.

Better yet was the timing of his 73rd win.

Woods tied Nicklaus for career PGA Tour victories at the tournament that Jack built. And the 14-time major champion suddenly looks equipped to resume his chase of another Nicklaus mark: 18 major championships.

The U.S. Open starts in 11 days.

With a chip-in that Woods called one of the toughest shots he has ever made, he birdied three of his last four holes to close with 5-under 67 and turn a two-shot deficit into a two-shot win over Rory Sabbatini and Andres Romero.

Coming off a two-putt birdie on the 15th, Woods hit 8-iron over the green at the par-3 16th and into a tough lie. It was buried in deep rough, the pin 50 feet away along a ridge. Woods hit a full flop shot, hopeful to give himself a putt for par. More likely was the ball going short and down a slope away from the pin, or coming out too strong and rolling into the water.

No one was thinking birdie, not even Woods, until he took two steps and delivered an uppercut when the ball fell in.

Nicklaus gushed from the broadcast booth: "The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I've ever seen."

"He lands the ball exactly where it has to land," Nicklaus said later. "Going in the hole was a bonus. … I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot."

Woods, who finished at 9-under 279, won the Memorial for the fifth time. At age 36, he is 10 years younger than Nicklaus when the Golden Bear won his 73rd tournament at the 1986 Masters. Sam Snead holds the PGA Tour record with 82 wins.

Woods ended his worst stretch as a pro. After winning at Bay Hill in March, he tied for 40th in the Masters, missed the cut at Quail Hollow and tied for 40th at the Players Championship.

Asked about whether his game is back, Woods, who moved to No. 4 in the world, sighed, "I'll let you guys figure that out."

Woods reached the par-5 15th into the wind in two shots to set up a two-putt birdie and get within one shot of Sabbatini. But just like that, it looked as if his chances were over when his 8-iron bounded into that tough lie.

"I went for it. I pulled it off," he said. "And for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise, because it was baked out and it was also running away from me."

From the middle of the 18th fairway, with Nicklaus watching, Woods hit 9-iron to the back of the green, where it caught the slope and rolled to inside 10 feet for the final birdie. Woods raised the putter in his left hand before the ball disappeared in the cup. That was the pose Nicklaus struck so often in his career.

"That was some good stuff out there," Woods said. "I never really missed a shot today."

Meanwhile, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint early Saturday in Ardsley and arrested on DWI and aggravated DWI charges. Police say Steinberg's blood-alcohol content was 0.18 percent. The legal limit in New York for DWI is 0.08 percent.

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